THE IT: Sarah K of catl takes us vintage shopping

Sarah Kirkpatrick, of the Toronto band catl, which has two songs in the Jonathan Sobol movie, A Beginner’s Guide to Endings. The movie stars Harvey Keitel and Tricia Helfer and premieres at TIFF tonight. More details at the end of the post!

We spent an amazing day vintage shopping with Sarah in Mirvish Village. Story by Caitlin Agnew. Photography by Brendan Adam Zwelling.

Sarah Kirkpatrick is no stranger to the spotlight. As the vocalist, organist, and percussionist of Toronto blues band catl, she’s a veteran of both the stage and stage style.

I first met Kirkpatrick at The Butler’s Pantry on Markham Street. It was the morning, or rather, afternoon after her band’s biggest show to date: opening for the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion at Lee’s Palace. She sat down next to me, lowered her yellow sunglasses, and ordered a Coke, joking afterward on how it made her feel better, like “less of a dirtbag.”

A Pilates instructor by day, Kirkpatrick knows her body—very well. She doesn’t follow trends or designers and prefers buying quality vintage, using the likes of Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly as guides: “I’m more concerned with shape and lines and the clothes actually fitting properly.”

We decided to spend the day vintage shopping in her favourite neighbourhood, Mirvish Village, where I witnessed first-hand just how a rock star chooses her look.

Our first stop is Harlow Black (594 Markham St.). This store is like heaven for party dresses, where grown-up girls can resurrect them for a second life. As a performer, Kirkpatrick is able to dress a little (read: a lot), more flashily than the average woman would on a night out. At the moment, she’s totally into sequins and bows, but never anything tacky or too revealing.

Kirkpatrick and I are immediately drawn to a white dress covered in silver beading and tiers of tassels, the kind of Vegas number perfect for an appearance on any stage. She thinks it’s too long for her, but I convince her to try it on and voilà! A star is born. The former tomboy from Toronto Island immediately transforms into a diva. The dress hugs her perfectly, creating a tiny waistline; the tassels add a shimmy worthy of Tina Turner.

Next up is what we dub the “awards show” dress: a shiny green number with a giant bow. It’s cute and fun, but nothing compared to the first dress. Before leaving Harlow Black, Kirkpatrick puts the white dress on hold. I have a feeling we’ll be back.

Our next stop is Refinery Vintage (588 Markham St.). Kirkpatrick clearly has a great relationship with owner Cher Thornton who instinctively knows what Kirkpatrick is looking for. I put together an outfit for Kirkpatrick to try on—red leather shorts and a one-shouldered animal print blouse. She’s a good sport, and the short shorts show off the benefits of hours and hours of Pilates, but she’s clearly not into it: “I get it, it’s just not me.”


First, it’s blue sequins and, then, another black and green dress, one with a crinkly train that can be molded and shaped to stand up behind you. (This is Refinery’s equivalent of the awards show dress.) Kirkpatrick is enamoured, but, alas, the dresses don’t fit exactly right.

We head up the street to Twice Found (608 Markham St.), which specializes in antiques and vintage jewellery. When performing, Kirkpatrick is unable to wear too much jewellery—it interferes with rocking out and I’m certain that too much hardware could cause serious injury (it’s all fun and games until…).

Kirkpatrick favours rings, brooches, and earrings, picking up a yellow floral brooch and some plastic yellow earrings while we’re there. She confesses to often misplacing her brooches while playing at out-of-town shows. I’m convinced that they’re stolen by rabid fans.

On the steps of Twice Found, Kirkpatrick looks to me for advice. “Should I get the white dress?” I tell her yes, yes you have to. There’s something transformative about it, it’s totally unique, totally perfect, totally her. We go back to Harlow Black and she tries it on one more time, this time with her hot pink heels, before taking it home.


1. Harlow Black

594 Markham St., 416-346-7899

2. The Refinery

588 Markham St., 416-818-1104

3. Twice Found

608 Markham St., 416-534-3904


Friday, September 17: Gala premiere at TIFF of Jonathan Sobol’s movie A Beginner’s Guide to Endings, starring Harvey Keitel, and featuring two catl songs, “Hey! Hey!” and “Grind It Down.”

(The regular screening is at the Varsity this Saturday, Sept 18, at 11:45 a.m.)

Friday, September 17:  catl plays The Dakota (249 Ossington Ave.) with The Pining. $7/10 p.m.

Wednesday, September 22: catl plays The Garrison (1197 Dundas St. W.) with Austin, Texas band The Strange Boys. $9 in advance at Rotate This, Soundscapes/9 p.m.

One thought on “THE IT: Sarah K of catl takes us vintage shopping

  1. I was lucky enough to catch Sarah and CATL at the Kitchener Blues Festival and she was wearing that white dress and the hot pink heels too. Good advice on the purchase as she looked fantastic. I will admit that when I first approached the stage I was drawn to her as she presented as quite the vision. Then they began to perform and I was totally blown away.

    I have posted some pictures on my website from the Kitchener Blues Festival, including some from CATL. You can check them out at

    I am looking forward to catching them again, and will now have to make sure I pay attention to the fashion as well as the music when that day comes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>